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Burgess Attacks Spearfish Legislator with Sioux Falls Billboard; Republicans Suspect Connection to Noem

Rob Burgess of the fake Dakota “Institute” for Legislative Solutions has added a fifth legislator to the list of lawmakers he’s alleging on Sioux Falls billboards are hiding something related to the impeachment of killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg. Yesterday KSFY’s Austin Goss noticed that a pro-impeachment billboard now lists Representative Scott Odenbach (R-31/Spearfish) as “trying to hide” something.

The other four legislators targeted so far with this ad campaign—a campaign that names the legislators but not the target of impeachment itself, not the law enforcement official who actually broke the law and killed a man—are Representatives Spencer Gosch (R-23/Glenham), Jamie Smith (D-15/Sioux Falls), Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls), and Jon Hansen (R-25/Dell Rapids). All four of those legislators serve on the House Select Committee on Investigation who will meet March 28 to recommend what if anything to do about Ravnsborg. Two of them, Haugaard and Smith, are running against Noem for Governor.

Burgess’s inclusion of Odenbach among his targets in his Sioux Falls billboard campaign seems to waste valuable advertising resources. Representative Odenbach serves Spearfish and Lawrence County, six hours away from the audience this advertising reaches. Put the name “Scott Odenbach” on a billboard in Sioux Falls, without even his Legislative title, and 99.99% of passersby will have no idea to whom the billboard refers. Absent the press this billboard gets here on the blogs, Burgess’s attack on Odenbach will reach very few of the District 31 voters who might see the billboard and contact their Representative to say, “Scott, what are you hiding? Just impeach Ravnsborg!”

Odenbach doesn’t serve on the impeachment committee. Odenbach was one of ten Republicans who voted against convening the impeachment committee. But so did Representatives Chris Karr and Bethany Soye of Sioux Falls. Sioux Falls Representative Doug Barthel is on the impeachment committee. Impeachment committee members Representatives Kent Peterson and Kevin Jensen live just down the road in Salem and Canton, respectively, so plenty of their constituents are probably driving to Sioux Falls for groceries and have a shot at seeing their concealatory legislators’ names in lights. If Burgess is looking for bang for the buck, why not light up all of the local legislators on the impeachment committee who will make the next crucial decision?

Odenbach says the DILS billboard attacking him is just more sloppy politics from Governor Kristi Noem, with whom he has had occasional disagreement:

“We would have to suspend all critical thinking to think she has nothing do with these dark money campaign ads,” said Odenbach, the Spearfish Republican who first drew the ire of the governor last year when he was critical of her resistance to blocking private employers from implementing COVID-19 vaccine mandates. “Anybody can see that she’s got to be involved.”

Odenbach and Gosch, the Glenham Republican who has also feuded with Noem on seemingly unrelated matters in recent weeks, said no amount of denial from the governor can outweigh that she’s repeatedly involved herself in the potential impeachment of Ravnsborg and the select committee’s work [Joe Sneve, “Gov. Kristi Noem Says Impeachment Billboards Are Not Her Doing. Lawmakers Don’t Believe Her,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2022.03.14].

Wait a minute—suspend all critical thinking? That’s exactly what Noem proposed and Odenbach voted for in House Bill 1337, the Governor’s vaunted political posturing against “divisive concepts” like “critical race theory.”

Odenbach says Burgess and the Governor may be targeting him because he went to law school with Ravnsborg (something Odenbach hasn’t hidden). He also says Noem may just be bucking to have Ravnsborg removed before any further investigation can be conducted into her own ethical lapse in the Sherry Bren case (something Noem has tried to hide):

I can only speculate that the Governor and her minions in the institute for negative campaign solutions think I may have some better connection to Ravnsborg than other House members since he and I were law school classmates and I’ve spoken to him on a number of occasions since the accident. I’ve been open about that, and he’s never said anything to me he’s not also said publicly or to the investigators. I think it’s also personal with the governor. She can’t stand that I think for myself and have crossed her in the past regarding her failure to take meaningful action regarding Covid vaccine mandates, among other things. I think the Governor is so desperate to have AG Ravnsborg impeached sooner rather than later because she as governor then gets to appoint her own person as A.G. That should come in handy if/when the Government Accountability Board sends findings to the DCI under SDCL3-24 for further investigation into her possible misuse of the state airplane or the firing of Sherry Bren [Rep. Scott Odenbach, in Jacob Newton, “Pro-Noem Mystery Org Targeting State Lawmakers,” KELO-TV, 2022.03.14].

But I still have to ask: if you’re targeting Scott Odenbach, why target him in Sioux Falls instead of in Spearfish?

Representative Charlie Hoffman (R-23/Eureka) is mad and suspicious enough about these billboards attack legislators that he has said that if he learns Noem has paid for these billboards, he’ll withdraw his endorsement of Noem for Governor. Evidently terrified by the wrath of Hoffman, Team Noem and Team Burgess are disavowing any connection, other than Burgess’s affection for Noem’s agenda:

“Zero relationship,” said Joe Desilets, the campaign manager for Kristi for Governor. “No one on our team set up that organization, is directing it or anything of the sort.”

Dakota Institute for Legislative Solutions executive director Rob Burgess declined to comment for this article, other than to say he does not work for Noem or have any direct relationship with her.

However, a news release issued by the organization prior to the launch of the ad campaign said the 501(c)(4) non-profit was formed, in part, to “generate support for Gov. Noem’s agenda” [Sneve, 2022.03.14].

Burgess put that in writing under penalty of law yesterday by having his treasurer, Staci Goede, file an independent communication statement with the South Dakota Secretary of State. On this document, Virginia-based Goede swears that Virginia-based DILS’s ad campaign “WAS NOT controlled by, coordinated with, requested by, or made upon consultation with that candidate, political committee, or agent of a candidate or political committee. The document declares that the billboards (Burgess describes them as “Grassroots lobbying activity”) each cost $4,804.80. The attacks on Gosch, Smith, Haugaard, Hansen, and Odenbach thus cost a total of $24,024.

Having declared DILS’s expensive billboards to be independent communications, Burgess appears to be in violation of SDCL 12-27-16.1, “This communication is independently funded and not made in consultation with any candidate, political party, or political committee.” Failing to include that disclaimer is a Class 2 misdemeanor for the first violation and a Class 1 misdemeanor for each subsequent offense. Since these are digital billboards, do we count each flash as a separate instance, meaning that we’d have a Class 2 misdemeanor for the first appearance, and a Class 1 misdemeanor for every flash after that? if the message appears once a minute, that could add up to 1,440 misdemeanor citations per day.

For those looking for a connection between Burgess and Noem, consider that the last big darkly moneyed ad blast promoting impeachment, the January robocalls rousing citizens to call members of the impeachment committee and demand Ravnsborg’s head, calls in which Governor Noem appears to have been involved, came from an Ohio outfit associated with Jonathan Petrea, a well-connected dark-money consultant. Petrea is Facebook friends with Rob Burgess:

Jonathan Petrea, screen cap showing Rob Burgess as Facebook friend, 2022.03.14.
Jonathan Petrea, screen cap showing Rob Burgess as Facebook friend, 2022.03.14.
Jonathan Petrea, screen cap of FB profile, 2022.03.14.
Jonathan Petrea, screen cap of FB profile, 2022.03.14.

But we all know nothing on Facebook is real, including “Friend”ships:

Petrea in a phone call with the Argus Leader on Monday acknowledged knowing who Burgess is, but denied working with him at any point in his career.

“I know who he is, but I’ve never worked with him or have had any business dealings with him,” Petrea said. “He and I don’t have any relationship” [Sneve, 2022.03.14].

So sure, there is absolutely no connection between Rob Burgess, who says he has $2.3 million to promote Kristi Noem’s agenda and buys a billboard in Sioux Falls to attack a legislator who disagrees with her in Spearfish, Jonathan Petrea, who represented himself as spokesman for an Ohio call center whose boss told her employees that the Governor was involved in calls to legislators about impeachment, and Governor Kristi Noem. No connection whatsoever.


  1. cibvet 2022-03-15 11:50

    For any politician or anyone working in politics, truth must be checked at the door. I think since 2016, I have dropped an
    optimist attitude for this country and have become a cynic. Four years of trumpist demagoguery wore me down. I suspect it will take
    10-15 years to erase their embrace of authoritarianism.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-03-15 12:34

    It is curious that well-connected political consultants in Ohio and Las Vegas would, completely independently of each other and of any South Dakota pol, not only take an interest in the impeachment of the South Dakota attorney general but also would find available and expand large sums of money advocating for that impeachment. It does beggar critical thinking to contend that these campaigns have nothing to do with each other.

  3. 96Tears 2022-03-15 12:43

    It’s a game of whack-a-mole to keep up with these sleazy dark money groups, now apparently amassing in South Dakota to control state politics.

    Are any of these Democrat groups? Nope. Both sides here really don’t do the same thing. It’s all Republican.

    It wasn’t that long ago that $1 million spent on a governor campaign here was considered over the top. Now, one mystery group, DILS, will have more than $2 million to attack anyone who isn’t 100 percent in the tank for Noem.

    How many more dark money morons with millions are out there waiting to file any pubic paperwork until after they launch their first strikes and the press starts asking questions? Did anybody know Rob Burgess was operating as a third-party attack force until after the billboards went up?

    And what about the Ohio phone bank? Who paid for that? No disclaimer has come forward and big shot dark money political operative from Ohio Jonathan Petrea is still covering up.

    Only the Queen of Sleaze knows, and she and her minions won’t disclose. She wears those sleazy dark money groups like a suit of armor.

    Girdle your lions, folks. The dirty tricks will keep coming until Sleazy Noem rids Jason Ravnsborg’s name from that second slot on the 2022 ballot.

  4. JNNelsen 2022-03-15 13:38

    All smells like oil money from Kansas, just sayin’

  5. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-03-15 13:54

    Oil money from Kansas, JNNelsen? Who’s the connection there? Connect us some dots from oil to Burgess and Petrea to Noem.

    And why would that oil money be spent against Odenbach, who poses little threat to Noem’s standing in Sioux Falls?

  6. 96Tears 2022-03-15 16:40

    Regarding Odenbach, Cory, he has plenty of Sioux Falls contacts who are SDGOP activists, plus he went to both SDSU and USD. Burgess most likely thought Odenbach would hear the footsteps if he was included on the billboard show. This may have more to do with Ravnsborg’s network among people who’ll file as delegates to the 2022 state convention.

    It’s a dumb move by Noem. Petty and vindictive. It certainly won’t help her standing with grassroots Republicans in the Hills and in Sioux Falls. Violates Reagan’s 11th Commandment. Kristi’s crapping in her nest.

    Can you think of any previous state official who went out of her/his way to start a war with other same-party elected officials?

  7. Kurt Evans 2022-03-15 22:26

    Cory writes:

    Odenbach says Burgess and the Governor may be targeting him because he went to law school with Ravnsborg (something Odenbach hasn’t hidden).

    Odie and I lived on the study floor of Young Hall during our undergrad days at SDSU.

    Connect the dots, people.

  8. Kurt Evans 2022-03-19 22:10

    Representative Scott Odenbach says:

    I can only speculate that the governor and her minions … think I may have some better connection to Ravnsborg than other house members since he and I were law school classmates and I’ve spoken to him on a number of occasions since the accident. I’ve been open about that, and he’s never said anything to me he’s not also said publicly or to the investigators.

    Wow. That would seem to indicate that Jason is still telling his friends the same story he’s told to the public and to the investigators (and to his dad by the way). Are his friends really that gullible?

    One consequence of Governor Noem dragging out the criminal proceedings and the impeachment proceedings is that by the time Jason can give a full public response to Craig Price’s bogus crash reconstruction and ruthless character assassination, it will be extremely difficult for Republicans to get Larry Rhoden onto the ballot for governor.

    If Noem still wins the primary, they’ll have until August to persuade her to allow a replacement, but they’ve arbitrarily restricted access to the ballot by moving the filing deadline for independent candidates from August to April, which was shortsighted, stupid, and evil.

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